Minute of the special meeting of the Ross, Skye and Lochaber Planning Applications Committee in terms of the hearing’s procedure held on site in the vicinity of Corriemoillie and in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, High Street, Dingwall on Tuesday, 22nd March, 2011 at 10.30 am.
Committee Members Present
Mr Billy Barclay
Mr Peter Cairns
Mrs Isabelle Campbell
Mr David Chisholm
Mr Bill Clark
Mr Ian Renwick
Mrs Audrey Sinclair
Non-Committee Members Present:
Mr Richard Greene (Local Member Vote)
Officials in Attendance:
Mr Alaisdair Mackenzie, Area Solicitor
Mr David Mudie, Team Leader, Development Management
Mrs Alison MacArthur, Acting Administrative Assistant
Also in Attendance:
Mr Danny Shaw, for the Applicant
Ms Matilda Urie, for the Applicant
Mr Alan Pollock, Planning Consultant for the Applicant
Mrs Katharine Blythe, Environmental Consultant for the Applicant
Mrs Lesley Negri, Supporter
Mr Paul Ellis, Landscape Architect for the Applicant
Mr Colin Ornstin, Ornithologist for the Applicant
Mr Jocelyn Seligman, Objector, Stop Corriemoille Group
Ms Sue Hopkinson, Objector
Mr Ian Kelly, Head of Planning, Graham and Sibbald, for the Stop Corriemoille Group
Mr John Campbell QC, Agent for the Stop Corriemoille Group
Mr Donald Hogg, Objector
Mr Jim Bryce, Objector
Mr David Chisholm in the Chair
1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Bill Clark, Mr Michael Foxley, Mr Eddie Hunter, Mr Hamish Fraser and Mrs Isobel McCallum.
2. Planning Application to be Determined
2.1 Applicant: E.on Climate and Renewables (10/04137/FUL) (PLR-032-11 (1396kb pdf))
Location: Corriemoillie Forest, Gorstan, Garve
Nature of Development: Erection of 19 Wind Turbines, Hard Standings, Anemometer Mast, Wind Farm Control Building, Temporary Construction Compound, Lay Down Area, Access Tracks and 5 Borrow Pits
There had been circulated Report No PLR/032/11 by the Head of Planning and Building Standards recommending the grant of the application subject to the conditions detailed therein.
The meeting convened in the Chamber at 10.30 am when the itinerary for the site inspection was agreed and those representing the Applicant and the Objectors were invited to accompany the Committee on the site visit.
The site visit took the Committee by bus to the following viewpoints:
Viewpoint 5, just after Tarvie;
Viewpoint 6, Craig Cottage, Gorstan;
Viewpoint 7, Corriemoille Farm;
Viewpoint 8, near Lochluichart Power Station
The entrance point to Fannich Estate;
Viewpoint 3, Black Bridge;
Viewpoint 2, Aultguish Inn;
The Committee were shown photomontages of the proposed wind farm at these locations. The representatives of the Applicants and the Objectors were allowed the opportunity to point out physical features relating to the development at the various viewpoints.
The Committee thereafter convened in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, Dingwall at 1.30 pm to conduct the Hearing.
Mr David Mudie, Team Leader, Development Management presented his application and gave a description of the proposed development and the key material considerations.
The following addressed the Committee on behalf of the Applicant and made the following points:
Mr Danny Shaw, Director of the Applicant Company
- E.on had 70 wind farms around the world both onshore and offshore.
- E-on had chosen the site as it had high wind speeds, was more than 2 km away from houses, was close to the grid and development would have acceptable environmental impacts.
- No formal objections had been received from any of the statutory consultees or from the community council.
- Approval was been recommended by the Planning Officer.
- £60 million would be invested in the construction of the Corriemoillie Wind Farm. Contracts would be placed locally with over 80% of the on-site works to be awarded to Highland Contractors.
- A community benefit fund would also be established during the life of the project.
Matilda Urie, Project Manager for the Applicant
- The Applicant had been working for 8 years on this proposal;
- A previous developer had looked at 47 turbines but E.on felt 20 turbines would be more suitable;
- During the last eight years the Applicant had worked closely with all the statutory consultees, interested parties and numerous members of the public to optimise the design and respond to their advice;
- A bird flight corridor was designed with SNH/RSPB to accommodate species on site;
- In consultation with SEPA, turbines had been moved away from areas of deeper peat;
- To further reduce environmental impact access track would be shared with the Lochluichart Wind Farm.
Lesley Negri, Owner of the Aultguish Inn
- Local people should support renewable energy;
- This was a good site and the development would provide a sustainable future for the area;
- It was good that Scotland was at the forefront of sustainable development;
- The wind farm would bring people and spending into the area;
- This area had been used historically for renewable energy with for example the hydro schemes and it was good to see this continued.
Mr Shaw concluded that this was an ideal site and would be a significant contribution to Scotland’s renewal energy targets. The proposal had acceptable environmental impacts and substantial benefits for the local community.
On being questioned by the Committee the representatives for the Applicant answered:
- with regard to the bird corridor, an assessment of the regular flight paths of birds had been conducted and the turbines moved accordingly;
- a full site assessment had been done on the peat and the turbines were placed in the best places to mitigate any risks;
- with regard to loss of trees/carbon capture, the payback time would be 2 years 9 months which was 10% of the lifetime of the proposal;
- the visual impact assessment did include the Lochluichart Wind Farm and the impact was considered not unacceptable.
The Area Solicitor advised the Committee that although SNH had been invited by councillors had asked for SNH to attend today, they had declined the invitation.
The following addressed the Committee on behalf of the Objectors and made the following points:
Mr Jocelyn Seligman
- The “Stop Corriemoillie Now” had been set up to protect the environment of this unique, unspoilt and remote landscape;
- Despite E.on’s public relations drive there had been 505 objections and only 87 expressions of support. 17% support was hardly a mark of approval;
- Since 2005 when windfarm developments targeted our area there had been four applications and 6,335 objections according to Highland Council figures. There had been four consultations and two community ballots, none had found support for any turbines with increasing opposition to larger turbine numbers;
- The main reason E.on wanted to build was for the great deal of government supported money they would receive. Approval of the application would not lead to the closure of any conventional power stations so really there were no carbon emission savings;
- There has been continuous harassment of the community by prospective Developers;
- A further wind farm application is due and proposals for the realignment line of electricity pylons is in pre-planning at the moment;
- Having fought in 2007 to reduce the number of turbines from 43 to 17 we are dismayed that four years later the Council are supporting an extension to 36 turbines and have suggested a future application to round off to 42 turbines. This undermines community trust and we ask members to stand by the decision in 2007 and approve no more than 17 turbines. The objectors therefore ask that you vote against these unwanted and damaging proposals.
Mr Ian Kelly
- The objectors had prior to today raised serious concerns with Officials regarding the Report which had not been satisfactorily answered;
- In 2007 members concluded that the 22 turbine Lochluichart wind farm application was contrary to the Development Plan which had not changed and therefore this application must be contrary to the Development Plan;
- The professional visual impact assessments from SNH and on behalf of the objectors demonstrate significant adverse effects on landscape and visual amenity. When asked for a copy of the professional landscape advice we were told that no document exists and that it was an internal discussion within the Service;
- The proposed Lochluichart extension has been reduced from 13 turbines to 5 because of acknowledged adverse visual impact – where did that leave Corriemoillie;
- The proposal was visually prominent from the A835 with the turbines five to six times higher than the telecommunications mast members had seen on their site visit;
- Mr Kelly stated that he noted that the owner of the Aultguish Inn didn’t speak at the meeting in 2007;
- The proposal would have significant cumulative landscape and visual effects with the consented Lochluichart wind farm which can only be exacerbated by the proposed Lochluichart extension;
- The wind farm would straddle the ridgeline/watershed and extend onto visually prominent summits and would be more visually prominent than the Lochluichart wind farm. The A835 being higher than the A832 would be subject to more significant visual effects in an area of high tourist use;
- The key wind energy policy is E2 in the 2001 Structure Plan – adverse landscape and visual impact. Structure Plan Proposal L3 – the Council must have regard to the desirability of maintaining and enhancing present landscape character;
- In terms of HRES the site lies in an area with a strong presumption against export wind development by virtue of policy E7. The SPP on wind farms makes it clear that development on environmentally unsuitable sites is not supported;
- The Lochluichart scheme was highly controversial and it is only once it is built that we will see if the judgement in 2007 was sound or not. This proposal should wait until the effects of the Lochluichart wind farm are known;
- There were general misgivings and worry about the duty of care of elected members;
- Onshore wind farms will soon be a thing of the past as tidal and offshore wind farms gather speed;
- Will the wind farms we are building today become dinosaurs on our landscape tomorrow. This damage is irrevocable.
The representatives for the Applicant responded to the issues raised as follows:
- The Applicant was a responsible developer and committed to investing in Scotland;
- The Applicant ensured that local contractors did the majority of the work;
- The Applicant also invested in offshore and wave power, but these were in the very early stages and wouldn’t be available commercially until 2020;
- Mr Kelly had concentrated on a number of policies but if we look at these policies there is no significant visual or cumulative impact and there are no other relevant criteria in these policies. The Highland Renewable Strategy E7 policy was relevant and the material consideration reliability on that policy was highly questionable as it was superseded by national policy;
- Lesley Negri had not spoken in 2007 as she had not become the owner of the Aultguish Inn until 2008;
Following a question from the Chairman on whether the representatives for the applicants and the objectors were happy with the hearings procedure, the following were noted:
- Ian Kelly stated that he was not happy as he could not question Mr Mudie on answers he had given. However he was happy that the meeting had complied with the hearings procedure as laid down by the Highland Council;
- John Campbell stated that he was unhappy that Mr Mudie had not adequately explained the discrepancies raised regarding his Report but was happy with the conduct of the Hearing;
- Sue Hopkinson said she was upset that she hadn’t been able to hear Mr Mudie having travelled a considerable distance for the hearing, but that she was happy with the hearings procedure.
The Committee confirmed that all their requirements for information had been met and the Chairman indicated that the Hearings Process had been completed.
Mrs Audrey Sinclair stated that the policies relevant to the Lochluichart and Corriemoillie applications were consistent and the schemes were comparable. A number of the northern turbines for Lochluichart had been removed due to concerns over visibility but why was this not being applied to Corriemoillie?
Discussions followed regarding cumulative impact and the Planning Officer was asked if the Planning Service held a master plan for the number of turbines. Mr Ian Renwick asked how many turbines SNH had advised needed to removed. The Chair asked if there were changes to policy and in particular SPP and the HRES policy.
Mr Mudie advised that although SNH had raised the application, they were not objecting. It was explained that SNH no longer took such a stance unless development had significant impacts upon nationally designated sites.
Mr Mudie stated that the since it was over 50MW in size the Lochluichart scheme was submitted to Scottish Ministers under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 rather than as a planning application. SNH is the Government advisor with regard to landscape and visual impact assessment. The Council was also a consultee. In response to SNH’s objection to the 43 turbine scheme LZN, the applicant, had looked to reduce the scale of the scheme. By the time that it came to Committee in 2007, the scheme had been reduced to 22 turbines to address the concerns of SNH. This scheme reduced visibility from the A835 but there were five turbines visible along the A832 that were more of a concern to the Planning and Development Service. At the Committee meeting the applicant agreed to remove these. This resulted in a 17 turbine scheme.
In its advice on the current scheme, SNH based its response on the methodology adopted for the 43 turbine Lochluichart scheme. Its concern was focussed on the longer distance views from nearby AGLVs and other mountains. Mr Mudie advised that to make the scheme acceptable to SNH as many as ten turbines would need to be removed but the turbines selected would depend upon the orientation of view. It was explained that removal of some turbines to ‘improve’ one view may lead to imbalance in other views. The most significant impact in this regard was considered to be from the east (Ben Wyvis). However, the two developments would be read as one larger scheme nonetheless.
In terms of policy Mr Mudie advised that the Highland-wide Development Plan was now approved and therefore a material consideration but generally repeated the relevant policies of The Highland Structure Plan. The planning section of HRES in relation to on-shore wind was being updated to reflect the inherent weaknesses i.e. lack of information in respect of landscape capacity. It was however still a useful tool. SPP has reduced the extent of text but reinforces support wind energy development and looks to Councils to produce guidance that allow for larger ‘areas of search’ for development.
The Chair commented that if the application was granted there should be an additional condition covering the establishment of a liaison group.
Mr Mudie presented his recommendation as per the Report with the inclusion of an additional condition on visibility splays asked for in a late response from Transport Scotland.
David Chisholm, seconded by Mr Billy Barclay moved that the recommendation be approved with the following additional conditions to be drafted by the Head of Planning and Building Standards in consultation with the local members present:
- screening where appropriate be carried out on site;
- that a liaison group be formed with representatives from the community council, local residents and the Applicant;
- visibility splay standards as laid down by Transport Scotland;
There being no amendment the motion became the finding of the Committee.
There being no further business the meeting closed at 1455 hours.